The Pallilog

Amid more cancellations, there is hope for baseball

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So, the general target for this column is 800 words in length. 788 words to go! And so begins the month of May. 777 words to go!

Two of the great events of the baseball summer were inevitably canceled this week. The National Baseball Hall of Fame's July induction ceremony for the class of 2020 will be rolled into the Class of 2021. Much worse, the Little League World Series scheduled for August, wiped out. Given the times, any ray of optimism on a number of fronts is a good thing so long as it's not laughably pie in the sky optimistic. There was some glimmer this week about the baseball season beginning by the end of June. USA Today's outstanding baseball writer/reporter Bob Nightengale broke the story that the emerging possibility would have a start date no later than July 2, with the 30 MLB teams broken into three 10 team divisions with all clubs using their home ballparks. The Astros would play in the West with the Rangers, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Padres, Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Rockies. Those would be the only nine opponents the Astros would face in a regular season that would run 100+ games from start to a late October finish ahead of whatever postseason plan including neutral sites was settled upon for November and perhaps even early December. Sign us up!

Justin Verlander said Thursday he's recovering very well from his dual injuries (groin surgery and lat). Reminder that while they're absolutely lousy circumstances under which to glean a silver lining, a delayed start to the season means the Astros will have Verlander ready to go when (I refuse to consider if) it gets here. An on time start, and Verlander probably misses the first two months plus.

If you missed it early this week, the Astros were ousted in the quarterfinals of MLB.com's all-time franchise best simulation tournament. The Yankees beat the Astros in seven games. The Astros blew Game 7 after holding a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning. Billy Wagner gave up a tying homer to Mickey Mantle in the bottom of the ninth, then in the 12th Yogi Berra took Brad Lidge deep to win the series. I just typed a paragraph with details of a computer-played baseball game. I now pause to sob quietly for a few seconds.

A Big Deal 

Congrats to agent-less 25 year old Texans' left tackle Laremy Tunsil for smoking Bill O'Brien in their contract negotiations. Three years 66 million dollars is absurd. O'Brien continues to rack up "you have to be kidding me" GM decisions. Tunsil is a very good player. He is not the second coming of Anthony Munoz. For Tunsil to get four million more per year than the prior richest offensive tackle deal? Another way of framing Tunsil's 22 mil per season: that's a million dollars for each penalty he committed last season, plus a two million dollar bonus.

As much as one can reasonably judge a draft at the time of that draft, Bill O'Brien did fine with the Texans' top two choices. The loss of D.J. Reader left a big hole in the defensive line interior. Second round pick Ross Blacklock out of Elkins High School and TCU just needs to validate his selection. It's also not inconceivable that J.J. Watt gets cut after the 2020 season and Blacklock kicks out to defensive end. And before anyone goes screaming "Heretic!" at the suggestion of Watt being on the spot this year, he's missed at least half the regular season three of the last four seasons and is 31 years old. Watt's 15 and a half million dollar salary for the coming season is safe, but another major injury before he turns 32 while scheduled to make 17 and a half million in 2021?

Third round choice linebacker Jonathan Greenard gets mixed reviews, but the Texans needed another edge rusher possibility and I'm good with taking a guy named first team All-Southeastern Conference.

The Dallas Cowboys don't retire numbers, so their issuing number 88 to first round pick CeeDee Lamb is noteworthy. The wide receiver out of Oklahoma takes his spot in a Cowboys' number 88 lineage that includes Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin, and Dez Bryant. The Cowboys may now have three different receivers (Lamb, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup) who a majority of NFL teams might take over any Texans' receiver. It's not that the Texans' corps stinks.

Buzzer Beaters

1. NBC is airing a mythical Kentucky Derby Saturday with the field comprised of the 13 Triple Crown winners. Secretariat obviously should win. Citation to place. Or Lucky Dan. Kudos if you get the reference. Affirmed to show. 2. Mint julep may be the most disgusting cocktail I've ever sipped. 3. Best "May" athletes: Bronze-Lee May Silver-Don Maynard Gold-Willie Mays

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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